Saturday, December 06, 2008

Scientific Development (科学发展观) and Deepening CCP Governance at the Local Level--The Challenge

I have previously discussed the importance of so-called ideological campaigns to the development of Chinese political norms. See Larry Catá Backer, The Rule of Law, the Chinese Communist Party, and Ideological Campaigns: Sange Daibiao (the 'Three Represents'), Socialist Rule of Law, and Modern Chinese Constitutionalism. Journal of Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2006. I have also suggested the critical importance of these normative developments for Chinese constitutionalism. Larry Catá Backer, A Constitutional Court for China within the Chinese Communist Party: Scientific Development and the Institutional Role of the CCP (November 28, 2008).

One of the key features of these ideological campaigns is to elaborate a legitimating theory within constitutionalist state discourse, of the place of the Chinese Communist Party within the governance framework of the nation. For that purpose, Jiang Zemin's Sange Daibiao (三个代表; Three Represents) thought provided a critically important step forward. Larry Catá Backer, Chinese Constitutionalism, Sange Daibiao (the “Three Represents”), and the Rule of Law, Law at the End of the Day, May 16, 2006). "The theory focuses on the future role of the CCP as 'a faithful representative of the requirements in the development of advanced productive forces in China, the orientation of the advanced culture in China, and the fundamental interests of the broadest masses of the people in China.'" Stefan Landsberger, Jiang Zemin Theory (Three Represents), Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages.

Jiang's successor, Hu Jintao has been building on the core notions of Sange Daibiao to deepen the understanding of the place of the CCP within the national governance framework. See Larry Catá Backer, Ideological Campaigns and the Creation of a "Higher Law" in China: "Ba rong, ba chi" or the "eight honors, eight disgraces," Law at the End of the Day, Aug. 6, 2006. Increasingly, the focus of that elaboration has been through the development of the concept of "scientific development" (科学发展观), adopted at the Third Plenary Session of the Seventeenth CPC Central Committee. See Larry Catá Backer, "The Scientific Concept of Development," The Rule of Law and the Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party, Law at the End of the Day, September 30, 2007.

Recently, Hu made clear the relationship between Jiang's "Sange Daibiao" and his "scientific development" concepts.
Chinese President Hu Jintao recently made a site tour in Ansai County, Shaanxi Province, to publicize a campaign for the Scientific Concept of Development. It's an ideology with the same principles of the previous Party leaders' theories known as Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the Important Thought of "Three Represents". The theories all say the CPC has always represented the most advanced productivity and culture in China, as well as the most fundamental interests of the majority of the Chinese people.
Hu Jintao Visits Country to Promote Ideological Campaign, People's Daily Online, Nov. 18, 2008 (a story also picked up by the Daily Mail in South Asia). The fundamentals are clear enough--the CCP serves in a representative capacity, but in that capacity is bound to a specific set of norms beyond which it may not venture. The CCP stands as vanguard party, embodiment of political citizenship and custodian of the values that make governance legitimate. But that position is dynamic--and requires demonstration of a constant commitment--in direct and physical terms--to the welfare of the people, if the CCP means to retain its position as the legitimate representative of the people above the state apparatus created through the constitution.

The staging of this reinforcement/education campaign took the form of a trip was carefully planned for its symbolism. "
Ansai, a county subordinate to Yan'an City, is Hu's site for the on-the-spot study of the ideological drive. Yan'an served as the capital for the CPC-led revolutionary base during the 1930s-40s, before the Party took over the power in 1949." Id. And the discussion was not conducted at the level of high theory--but in the language of participation and wealth creation. "While talking with villagers in Hougoumen, Ansai County, Hu said the new policies, based on a practice of the Scientific Concept of Development, will bring substantial benefits to farmers by allowing them to lease their rights to contract cultivated land and forests. " Id.

That conflation of Party, theory and wealth creation was centered on the efforts of the local Party officials. "
During his stay in Hougoumen this Oct., Hu learned about new progress made by the leadership of the village's Party branch. The villagers have had their income remarkably increased and their living standards much improved, Hu was told." Id. The most interesting element, at least at the level of local Party governance was the identification of a new method for better accountability by local Party officials within the local state governance structures.--the Party Member Promise System.
The village insisted on a Party Member Promise System. All the village cadres and applicants for Party membership are required to make the promise, according to Yang Fengqi, head of the village's Party branch. Hu called the Party Member Promise System a good way to help Party members and cadres display their exemplary role. "We must do what we have promised to do by actions," he stressed.Id.
Grass roots Party organization has become an important component of governance reforms. And necessarily so given the impliocations of the scientific development of Sange Daibiao. See, e.g., 安塞发挥党员作用:党员承诺制是个好做法 (Ansai to play the role of party members: commitment to the system of party members is a good practice) May 23, 2006; 建水实行党员承诺制一名党员显一面旗 (Jianshui members committed to the implementation of a system of party members) February 21, 2006 . And it is critically important, for that purpose, that the lowest levels of Party organization reflect a commitment to the most refined development of Party governance theory. That requires special measures.

Sadly, we learn little more about this potentially promising system in English. But see Lin Feng's (City University of Hong Kong) excellent analysis, "Constitutionalism Under the Leadership of the CPC: Is it Possible?" to appear in the Journal of Chinese and Comparative Law, which describes a variety of electoral models that have been tried by the CCP at the village level, and the parallel development of electoral reform within the CCP. For this trip, though, the emphasis was on the symbolism of accountability. But symbolism is an important marker of the seriousness so f the enterprise, and the danger for lower level cadres of ignoring it. Indeed democratic accountability was very much in the air: "
During his tour, Hu also visited the county government's complaints reception bureau and talked with officials about rural people's concerns. The officials told him that local villagers mainly cared lawsuits, land confiscation, reclamation of cultivated land to forests and contracting rights for farmland." Id.

As Hu symbolically noted, the success of the last decade's drive toward deepening a system of normative social and political values under the representative guardianship of the CCP will depend very much on buy-in from all social sectors. The masses are most willing to concede political citizenship to the CCP and its cadres, and to satsify themselves with social and economic citizenship rights, as long as there are strong and working methods of accountability and there is satisfaction that the CCP is doing its duty--including policing itself. But the buy-in from senior party officials may depend on the reliability of the development of another facet of Chinese democracy within the CCP--democratic centralism.

But these ideas are not new. Deng Xiao Ping understood this at the incipient stage of the current stage of Chinese development nearly thirty years ago. Those notions appeared to be very much on Hu's mind as he made this symbolic journey. See Special Report: 30th Anniversay of China's Reform and Opening Up, People's Daily Online. And for China, that is a good thing. Better as it is more efficiently carried through by the institutional efforts of the CCP.

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